“The biggest expression of a culture, after the language, is through the food,” Chef Fabio Bernardini explains, speaking to the vision for his new restaurant, Tempero. The Pan-Latin restaurant has this week opened its doors at an iconic address (which, until recently, housed Peach Pit), and the ethos here is to offer pared-back, bistronomy-style dining that hits the spot just as this kind of cuisine was always meant to.
The restaurant is a journey back to Bernardini’s ancestral roots, who, alongside working in some of Auckland’s top kitchens with the likes of Michael Meredith, brings some seriously impressive international credentials to the restaurant. He has served as the Executive Sous-Chef at Mexico City’s Pujol — which was recently awarded the 5th spot on last year’s World’s Best 50 list — as well as Michelin-starred Saison in San Francisco and D.O.M in his native Brazil, not to mention being named a finalist in the prestigious San Pellegrino Young Chef Latin America competition. With this resume at its helm, it’s fair to say Tempero is already punching well above its weight.
Joined by his partner Tiffany Low to manage operations, whose past also includes a tenure as Maitre d’ at New York’s Mercer Kitchen, the intention was always to create something intimate and approachable that reflected the cuisine’s heritage. As the menu brings together diverse flavours and influences from Latin countries, so too does the fit-out — all of which was a hands-on process for the owners. The simple 40-seater space underwent a significant transformation that included extensive tiling, licks of paint and reupholstering. The bare bones of the room initially spoke to the duo, I’m told, where the high ceilings and colonial structure felt reminiscent of buildings in Brazil. The couple brought a playful approach to the space, with modernist art and minimalism, and like most, sustainability, as an overarching principle.
The latter concept is applied to the food too, where Bernardini adopts a nose-to-tail approach to cooking, ensuring a more sustainable practice, introducing new flavours to the palette, and leaning into a traditional Latin approach to cooking. After all, anyone familiar with the cuisine can see its immediate influence on the menu — from emphasising meats and traditional dishes like moqueca to introducing delicious pantry staple ingredients like cassava, beans and farofa — a treasured addition. Low explains that because of the ingredients, much of the menu is (almost unintentionally) gluten-free and there’s much that can accommodate vegan and vegetarian preferences too.
Tempero’s dishes you can’t get away without trying include the pão de queijo, a moreish little Brazilian cheese bread that is perfect for sharing, and the tamal of potatoes, which, when drenched in green salsa and topped with bean salad, feels like a modern rendition of the Mexican classic. For something heartier to share, opt for the acarajé, which is a flavour-stuffed morsel designed to share, the confit chicken leg (which is perfectly cooked), and the fish moqueca, a traditional Brazilian stew, served with rice and farofa with banana. And while all of these plates are packed with new and intricate flavours that offer a sense of intrigue, and are served in such a way that could be seen at some of the world’s best restaurants, there is a sense of familiarity at the menu’s core — each dish is flavoursome but inherently simple, like something you might find in the home kitchens of Central and South America.
Beverage offerings here also consider the notions of nostalgia and simplicity while speaking to the rich tapestry of Tempero. Latin-inspired cocktails like margaritas and pina coladas are a mainstay, alongside a carefully curated wine list, house-made horchatas and agua de sabor. While some might see a destination like this as another delicious string in K’Road’s already impressive bow, we’d suggest recognising it for what it is — a world-class establishment that could quickly become one of our City’s best restaurants. After all, it’s about time for some new flavours, we think.
Tuesday — Thursday, 4pm until 11pm
Friday, 12pm until late
Saturday, 4pm until late
Closed Sunday & Monday
352 Karangahape Road,